Steve Stratton spent 20 years in the U.S. Army in a career that was anything but typical. Starting at the White House Communications Agency supporting the needs of Presidents Ford and Carter, Vice Presidents Rockefeller and Mondale and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. His work took him around the world introducing him to new cultures, ways of thinking, and the various agencies tasked with projecting and protecting American interests abroad.

Steve was awarded his Green Beret in 1986. From the 80’s through 2000 he deployed with 20th Special Forces on counter-drug and training missions in the SOUTHCOM region. His civilian contractor time includes support for USCENTCOM, USSOCOM, and several intelligence agencies. Today he develops cyber security products that support the warfighter and intelligence community.

Thom Shea spent 23 years as a US Navy SEAL with multiple combat deployments across the globe, and later as an instructor/officer in charge of the SEAL sniper course. Thom’s incredible story is one of perseverance, honoring his word and exhibiting the will to keep coming back again and again, no matter what was thrown at him. Thom is the author of “Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life”  and “Three Simple Things: Leading During Chaos”.  Thom shares valuable, hard earned lessons with perceptive wit and humility as well as admiration for those he served with.
Thom is the founder of Unbreakable Leadership, where he works with people from all walks of life looking the level up their careers, relationships and overall quality of life.
You can learn more about Thom and his work at:
and on Instagram @frogmanout

Jose Belen spent 4 years in the US Army and saw combat in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a Field Artilleryman (13B), Jose was with Old Ironsides (1st Armored Division) as they pushed into Iraq in spring of 2003 and he speaks in stark and bracing terms of the mindset of preparing for war and the atmosphere of combat that he and his fellow soldiers faced.  After leaving the Army in 2005, Jose embarked on a successful civilian career, but was battling inner demons related to his combat experiences and the loss of close friends in battle. Jose takes us deep into his soul and explores the very dark places that veterans with PTSD can go to, and what he did to climb out of that darkness and into the light. With the help of his family and friends, Jose sought help, got off the pills and drugs he was being prescribed and  branched out to a new career in the fitness industry and a newfound passion and talent as an artist. Jose also is a passionate and tireless advocate for veterans’ mental health issues and uses his art as a platform to keep the memory of fallen comrades alive and bring awareness to veterans’ issues. Please check out Jose’s work at and follow Jose on Instagram @josebelenofficial

Joe Hayes served four years in the US Marine Corps and deployed twice to Iraq in the early stages of the GWOT. Joe was part of 2nd Battalion/4th Marines (Magnificent Bastards) and his first deployment took him into the heart of the Sunni Triangle and Ramadi, where he and his fire team engaged in an intense gunfight that would forever change Joe and those he served with. Joe goes into fascinating detail of that fateful April day in Ramadi and speaks with moving respect and reverence of his fellow Marines, many of whom lost their lives in the fight. After finishing his 4 years in the Corps, Joe entered civilian life and became a  police officer for over a decade. Joe’s a man of deep religious faith and speaks with great conviction and contemplation about being a Christian,  soldier, police officer, citizen, father and husband.  The thread of service runs through Joe’s life and career and his latest venture, the Day of Battle podcast, seeks to reach Marines and service members of all branches and connect them with spirituality and purpose.
You can find Joe on Instagram @dayofbattlepodcast and at his Youtube channel:

Mike Nelson spent 23 years in the US Army, first in the 82nd Airborne and then the majority of his career in the special operations community as a Green Beret. Mike grew up in an Army family and attended Virginia Military Institute. He served at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels including as the Deputy Director of the US Central Commander’s Action Group, Future Operations director of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria, Director of the Baghdad Targeting Cell, and as a special forces company and operational detachment- alpha commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed eleven times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Qatar, and Kosovo with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, Joint Special Operations Command, and Special Operations Command-Central.

Mike exemplifies the warrior/diplomat/scholar on many levels and this conversation ranges from details of combat to war fighting strategy to foreign policy to individual stories of fellow soldiers Mike served with and enemies he faced. Mike covers the nuances of combating multiple insurgencies in Iraq, from Sunni groups to Iranian-backed Shia militias local villagers sitting on the fence waiting to see which group would emerge victorious. Mike explains in great detail the under appreciated,  deep familial ties and ever-shifting allegiances of Iraqi tribes that made the Coalition’s mission that much more difficult.  Mike also speaks movingly of his fellow Green Berets and the culture inside 5th Group that helped keep its members grounded and focused on mission during extremely trying times. Mike was later involved in the planning for dealing with ISIS in Syria and gets into the frustrations of formulating a battle plan hampered by bureaucracy and politics well above his pay-grade.

Fran Racioppi spent 13 years in the US Army, much of that time in Special Operations as a Green Beret. Fran’s Army career saw him deploy 3 times to Iraq as well as to multiple countries throughout Africa. His service there included coordinating Special Operations response to Al-Shabab throughout East Africa. In 2014, he planned and coordinated the Special Forces response to Boko Haram in West Africa, as well as oversaw the operations of Special Forces teams countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and ISIS in North Africa. In 2014, Fran was selected to serve as the advisor and aide to the Commander of Special Operations Command Africa. Fran has maintained a dizzying pace in civilian life, earning an MBA from New York University, Director of Global Security for Snapchat, founding his own company-FRsix and is the host of The Jedburgh Podcast. Fran also serves as the performance development coach for Boston University Men’s Rowing and volunteers with Sailahead, a veterans service organization.
Listen and subscribe to the Jedburgh Podcast:

Kyle Cassel spent 4 years in the US Marine Corps and another 3 years as a private contractor assigned to the US Army. In that capacity, Kyle was deployed to multiple forward operating bases (FOBs) in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where he spent his days in small workshops and even smaller living quarters. In this wide ranging conversation, Kyle talks about learning cricket from soldiers of the Afghan National Army, the sensations of being under a rocket attack for the first time and how that experience became almost routine shortly after. We also discuss Kyle’s Marine Corps career and things he would’ve done differently and how he is striving to regain his purpose and find balance in civilian life. To that end, Kyle started his own podcast, 15 Minutes Prior, where he interviews fellow vets about their experiences.
You can find 15 Minutes Prior here
and on all major podcast directories and platforms.

Joe Winslow served in the US Marine Corps for 21 years. Enlisting in the late 1980s, Joe’s career took him to Germany as the Berlin Wall fell, to reserve status and then back to active duty and Officer Candidate School through multiple deployments, to the last years where he was Combat Historian in Iraq for the Corps as they battled al Qaeda and other Iraqi insurgents in the Battles of Fallujah. Joe was given carte blanche access to all levels of the fighting and time and again witnessed his fellow Marines give the last full measure, bringing terrible and overwhelming force to bear on the enemy under extreme duress and conditions. Joe is a true historian and in our conversation, he eloquently brings to life the incredible acts he witnessed and the bravery and deadly effectiveness of his fellow Marines. The heroism Joe witnessed from his fellow Marines inspired him to find a way in civilian life to honor all those who serve. That inspiration, combined with a passion for arts and crafts, led Joe to found the Tripoli Gift Company, which works with military, law enforcement, first responders and civically minded organizations of all kinds to build and maintain comprehensive award programs for their employees and supporters.

To learn more about Joe, his team and the Tripoli Gift Company, please visit:

Kenneth Earl is a retired Navy Master Chief Cryptologist who spent 21 years in the Navy. Deploying around the globe multiple times throughout his career, Earl dealt with America’s most sensitive secrets and classified information, helping to keep America’s warfighters at the cutting edge of the battle space. After retiring from the Navy, Earl went on to work for multiple government agencies, combatting cyber crime of all kinds, intelligence operations, trafficking and all manner of threats to America’s interests. Earl is the author of Illegitimate Sun-How a Navy Cryptologist Cracked the Code of Life Lessons, in which he tells the story of growing up in poverty in South Carolina, to making his way to a successful Naval career and then to the highest reaches of the intelligence world. Earl writes most movingly of his mother, who raised 4 children alone and instilled toughness, resilience and character which prepared him to excel in life against long odds. Earl’s is a quintessential American story and an inspiring example of overcoming humble beginnings and creating a successful life through service, hard work, backbone and strong character.

Learn more about Kenneth Earl and order a copy of his book:

Matthew Charette spent 5 years in the US Marine Corps. From a family of Marines and military service stretching back generations, Matthew knew early on he was going into the military, taking the ASVAB in 9th grade! Initially assigned to Fleet Anti-Terrorism/Security Forces, Matthew deployed to multiple locations in Europe. Later assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines-Kilo Company, Matthew was deployed to Helmand, Afghanistan and was part of the initial assault of Operation Moshtarak, also known as the Battle of Marjah. Matthew takes us through his 8-month Afghanistan deployment in Marjah, part of a province bordering Pakistan thick with Taliban and al Qaeda. From the initial assault and daily gunfights to the more mundane aspects of establishing bases and patrolling, Matthew speaks movingly of his fellow Marines and their professionalism and dedication to duty, often under extreme conditions. Since leaving the Marine Corps, Matthew has linked up with fellow Marine and former guest Ryan Rogers (Episode #56), to create the Choices Not Chances podcast, giving a voice to former Marines, warfighters and people from all walks of life.

Listen, follow and subscribe to Choices Not Chances here:

Christopher Strom spent four years in the US Marine Corps, twenty years as a police officer in the NYPD, retiring a sergeant with the NYPD Intelligence Division. In October 2007, Chris was recruited by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), a government agency that devised top-secret strategies for combating IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the lead tactical debriefing officer, he participated in over 110 combat missions and 91 captures of high-value targets (HVTs) in southern Iraq and performed more than 200 battlefield interrogations. Chris details his career and unique experiences in the book, Brooklyn to Baghdad-An NYPD Intelligence Cop Fights Terror in Iraq.
Chris’s book is a fascinating account of the gritty details of terrorist interrogation, infighting and politics within Big Army and moving accounts of bravery of the men and women he served with both in law enforcement and the military.
Chris appears regularly as a guest and law enforcement expert on Newsmax TV and you can follow Chris on Twitter: @BklyntoBaghdad
Instagram: @brooklyntobaghdad
Order your copy of Brooklyn to Baghdad here:

Ryan Rogers served over a decade in the US Marine Corps. Inspired to join the Corps by the 9/11 attacks, Ryan’s service saw him deployed five times, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan. Ryan also had a ten month stint on the All-Marine Boxing Team, earning a 5-1 record. It was his deployment to Afghanistan as a Squad Leader in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in the Battle of Marjah, that formed the basis for his book, Lions of Marjah. In this conversation, Ryan describes this 7-month deployment to Marjah in riveting detail, including landing in the middle of a flooded poppy field, immediately taking fire from the Taliban, establishing posts, patrols, gun fights and most importantly, the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of the Marines he served with. After being medically retired in 2014, Ryan retired to school and completed his degree, released his war memoir, Lions of Marjah-Combat as I Saw It. and started the Choices Not Chances podcast, with fellow Marine and co-host Matthew Charette. Ryan now speaks to young Marines and law enforcement and has dedicated himself to bettering the warfighter community and providing an outlet for his fellow Marines to succeed in their service and as they transition out of the military.

Order your copy of Lions of Marjah here:

Shaniqua Cousins spent 8 years in the US Navy. Originally from South Carolina, Shaniqua’s Naval service took her to frozen Maine, tropical Puerto Rico, Arctic Iceland, sunny Mediterranean Sicily and finally back to the US for a stint at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Shaniqua talks movingly about the Sailors and Marines who she served with and how her Naval service opened up the world to her and still fills her with a great sense of pride. Upon retirement, she founded Shaniqua Cousins World Group LLC,  a lifestyle brand dedicated to the creation of inspirational and transformative media content and resources for use by women that lead to positive life outcomes. Shaniqua’s also an author and a chef with a monthly live show from her kitchen, where she hosts friends and creates delicious, healthy home cooked meals.
Connect with Shaniqua and learn about all she does:

JB Spisso spent 26 years in the US Army, including a decade in special operations with the 75 Ranger Regiment. In a career that began with being among the first on the ground jumping into Panama and ended with a deployment to Afghanistan, Spisso has seen the Army go from the end of the Cold War to the height of the Global War on Terror. Spisso held multiple leadership positions in the Army during his career, including a stint at West Point.  Upon retirement, Spisso entered the leadership/mentorship space as a consultant and founded JBS Leadership Consultants. In that capacity, Spisso has worked with businesses, executives and sports franchises at the highest level, including teams from the NHL, NFL and NCAA. Spisso is the author of Warrior Leadership: Steps to Success for Leaders on the Ground.
To learn more about Spisso, order your copy of Warrior Leadership and to contact him, please visit:


Maury Abreu spent 4 years in the US Marine Corps, including a year-long deployment in Iceland and being selected as a Close Combat Instructor. Maury then took a job as a corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Shortly after 9/11, he began working for a government agency training individuals who operate globally and independently without backup, specifically in extreme close quarters combat and counterterrorism. Maury is the CEO and founder of Omega Protective Concepts, a company which teaches individuals  comprehensive skills for self defense and success in violent encounters of all kinds. The son of immigrants, Maury speaks with passion and conviction about his family, the opportunities that America and the Marine Corps gave him, and how the Corps set him up to navigate and succeed in life.
Learn more about Maury and Omega Protective Concepts:

Toby Harnden spent a decade in the British Royal Navy, deploying Internationally multiple times, retiring from naval service in 1994. A graduate of Oxford, Harnden embarked on a career in journalism that has spanned three decades and sent him to 33 countries while working for The Daily Telegraph and Times of London. While posted in Belfast, Harnden covered the Irish Troubles and from those experiences, he wrote his first book, Bandit Country: The IRA and South Armagh (1999).  From 1999-2003, Harnden was the Daily Telegraph’s Washington bureau chief and was in D.C. on 9/11. He covered the Iraq War and later Afghanistan and from 2013-2019 was Washington bureau chief for The Sunday Times of London.  His second book was Dead  Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Defining Story of Britain’s War in Afghanistan (2011). Extensive research and multiple trips to Afghanistan led to his most recent book, First Casualty-The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11 (2021). This is the incredible story of the first Americans airlifted into the mountains of northern Afghanistan in October of 2001, linking up with the Northern Alliance and taking the fight to the Taliban, culminating in the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi, where America suffered its first casualty in Afghanistan, Mike Spann. Harnden takes us through the riveting story of the political machinations of Washington immediately after 9/11, the initial CIA advance teams, Green Beret ODAs and the various warlords and ethnic groups that made up the Northern Alliance.  Harnden also details his own fascinating career, from dealing with the IRA during the Troubles, to being detained by the Mahdi Army in Iraq, to being imprisoned in Zimbabwe.

You can learn more about Harnden and his books at:
Follow Toby on Instagram: @tobyharnden1

Rydelle Nelson spent 6 years in the U.S. Air Force, with deployments across the globe.  Rydelle’s service ran the gamut, from 15 months in the desert in support of the Global War on Terror, to Korea (where he had to navigate a frozen hill in the middle of the night to the chow hall-not always successfully) to Key West working on drug and human trafficking interdiction in the Caribbean. Along the way, he took advantage of his leave and visited dozens of countries.

Currently completing training to obtain his pilot’s license, Rydelle plans on reenlisting in the Reserves or National Guard. Rydelle speaks movingly about what his service meant to him, the friendships he made with fellow service-members and how it expanded his view of the world, America and his place in it.

Will Jones spent 4 years (2004-2008) in the US Army, with 2 deployments to Iraq. Will’s second deployment was a 15 month hitch to Sadr City, Baghdad, where he and his fellow soldiers faced the Madhi Militia. After completing his service, Will came back home to Los Angeles, entered UCLA film school, and later took trips to Afghanistan and another film school in the Philippines. Will is an inferno of positive energy and he speaks frankly about some very dark times (as well as some very humorous ones), during his time in the Army. Will now devotes his time to helping veterans stay engaged, in shape and with a sense of purpose, with weekly beach workouts, rucking, boxing and numerous charities.

You can get your daily dose of inspiration by following Will on Instagram: @boomitsyourboywilljones

D.M. Scott spent 12 years in the Marine Corps, with deployments to Iraq twice (Ramadi, Fallujah) and Afghanistan. While in Iraq, he earned the nickname ‘Mutant’, for surviving multiple mortar and IED blasts, apparently unharmed.

But time would reveal deeper wounds in the form of traumatic brain injury, and D.M.’s road to recovery was a bumpy one that took him to some dark places. D.M. shares his road back to recovery through therapy and the restoring power of the ocean and surfing with the veteran non-profit One More Wave. This is a raw, revealing and inspirational conversation and we’re grateful to D.M. for taking a chance and sharing his story.

William Branum spent 26 years in the U.S. Navy, 23 of those as a SEAL. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan in the GWOT, and spent the last three years of his active duty service helping the SEAL teams acquire the funds and gear they needed to stay at the cutting edge.

William takes us through the grueling process of what it takes to become a SEAL, and the many important life lessons that he learned and skills he developed that we can all benefit from.
After retiring from the Navy, William jumped into the entrepreneurial world, starting his own consulting firm.